Ask Nick: Rebuilding a contender

The Hot Stove season is in full force after that amazing Toronto-Miami deal in which the Jays have revamped their entire team with one deal.

The Jays now have a lineup that looks like this:

Jose Reyes, SS
Emilio Bonafacio, 2B
Jose Bautista, RF
Edwin Encarnacion, 1B
Brett Lawrie, 3B
Adam Lind, DH
Colby Rasmus, CF
JP Arencibia/John Buck, C
Anthony Gose, LF

Starting rotation: Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, J.A. Happ.

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The Jays got sick of hearing about their “promise” and needed to show their fan base they were serious about winning. The deal was right for them. Whether it works or not remains to be seen as THINGS always seem to happen to the Jays pitching staff and team.

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Now they pick the experienced manager that would fit this more veteran team. And given the solid nature of this lineup and rotation, I would think this has become a suddenly coveted job.

John Farrell is now taking a drubbing on Twitter and Canadian blogs for abandoning the Jays for the Red Sox.

But there’s a long way to go before the rosters are set. The Red Sox have time to respond.

Do you think the Tigers would be interested in trading Victor Martinez back to the Sox now that they have Prince Fielder to play first base? Would Victor Martinez be a good solution for Boston’s first baseman?
Chris Gibbs, Wassenaar, The Netherlands

Doubt it. The Tigers are looking forward to having VMart in their lineup and will let Delmon Young go into free-agency.

I think it is safe to say that the Red Sox are rebuilding. Why won’t they consider bringing up pitchers Matt Barnes or Allen Webster to start the season? They can’t do any worse than last year’s rotation.
Nate Burnett, Erving

It’s not safe to say the Red Sox are rebuilding, certainly not in the Chicago Cubs/Houston Astros sense. They’re rebuilding with veteran players so they can contend this year. So I don’t see them rushing young pitching talent.

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I have great respect for you as a writer, but also someone who seems to always get it right with the Sox. My question is: name the three top choices the Sox would acquire if available.
Mike, Branford, Conn.

Hiroki Kuroda, Mike Napoli and Torii Hunter (editor’s note: Hunter signed with the Tigers Weds.). There are variations off these. They would probably love Anibal Sanchez at the right price and terms, Adam LaRoche, Shin-Soo Choo and Asdrubal Cabrera in a trade with the Indians; Justin Upton in a deal with Arizona; Alex Gordon in a deal with Kansas City.

The Blue Jays must have been reading your paper’s article about being bold. Seems like they have jumped out way ahead of the Sox.
Bob, Phoenix, Ariz.

Toronto had to be bold. They were stuck in fourth place, stuck in expectations that never seem to materialize. They had to do something. So they changed everything – the manager, the concept of developing talent and keeping it. So they’re going for it and the big thing up there is staying healthy. If those guys stay healthy along with with Bautista, Encarnacion, Lawrie, then that’s a potent and fast lineup and a solid rotation. Hey, the Red Sox were bold, too, weren’t they, dumping $260 million of salaries? Now it’s a matter of rebuilding quickly.

Opinion If the Sox were already talking to the Marlins about players and the fire sale in Miami is still on, could right fielder Giancarlo Stanton and pitcher Ricky Nolasco be considerations for the Sox?
Harry Reimers, Wilbraham

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I suppose anything is possible, but because Stanton is relatively cheap and that the Marlins need someone on the field that fans look forward to seeing, I would guess he’s not available. But I suppose everyone has a price. I’m sure the Red Sox inquired about him in their Jose Reyes/Josh Johnson talks with the Marlins. I think Nolasco can be had for a mid-level prospect.

What’s your assessment of Ben Cherington’s abilities to build the “next great Red Sox team?” Based upon his trades so far, how can Red Sox have faith in him (nothing in return for Youk? Melancon and Bailey gave nothing, the fire sale was the sign of desperation).
Steven, Cranston, R.I.

I will give him every benefit of the doubt. He’s starting his second year as the GM. There are still a lot of free agents and trades to be made before spring training. I’m on a wait-and-see basis. You have to be fair. They’re taking a certain approach now of being disciplined after being undisciplined. At the same time you can’t let the world pass you by. I wrote about this last Sunday in Baseball Notes. I wouldn’t want to be Ben Cherington. You have a lot of money to spend, but you don’t want to be foolish with it, yet you don’t want to get scooped on players you want because you drew the line in the sand. It’s quite a balancing act

With the lack of talent Cherington got in return for Theo, Scutaro, Lowrie, Youklis, and Reddick, do you think he is the right person to lead them back?
Bob, Alexandria, Va.

Let’s take it one by one. Scutaro was a 36-year-old shortstop/second baseman. What are going to get for him? They got Clayton Mortensen, who I thought is a pretty good reliever. Marco excelled in the postseason. Good for him. He’s a tough guy who plays hard, but what percentage of him did Mike Aviles solve? A good amount I’d say. Jed Lowery is a very undependable player. They were very patient with his numerous injuries and long recovery times. I don’t think you should regret that one at all. Melancon didn’t work out this season, but relievers are relievers, quirky and down one year and good the next. He has good stuff. Watch a nice rebound from him this year. Youkilis was an older, broken down player and even teams in desperate need of a righthanded bat like Pittsburgh and LA Dodgers, wouldn’t give a whole lot for him. The White Sox made a good deal giving up a guy with a good arm, but who has never been able to put it together. And you subbed Middlebrooks for Youkilis, which was the right things to do. Reddick is the one for me. And even with him, until this year, a guy who overperformed for half a year and then underperformed. He smoothed that out quite a bit and became a Gold Glove outfielder. Tough one. But think we have to see what Andrew Bailey does as a closer before the jury is completely out on that one.


Why should I care? Why should I pay attention in 2013? Why should I spend the money for the NESN package? Why should I buy a ticket at Fenway? Why should any sucker if this team won’t even reinvest money shed in the Dodgers deal on the short term to make this team a contender? When will this ownership group sell so I can start caring again?
Sean, Miami Beach

I would, first of all, calm down. Long way to go before free-agency is over. Long way to go before you can stop making deals. See how it plays out. Every organization goes through their down periods. I don’t think this one is going to last very long. Anyway, you pick up the NESN package so you can watch me on the pregame show.
Maybe it’s time for another Hanley Ramirez for Josh Beckett trade. Is there any chance that the Rays would do a blockbuster deal with the Sox? The Rays have a need for position players who can hit and who are far from free agency. Marketing lefty ace David Price would give them the greatest return in a deal and he’s exactly what the Sox need to bolster the rotation and to be relevant again.Xander Bogaerts would have to be the prize of the Red Sox bait, and since he won’t be ready to help the Rays until late in the season at the very earliest, the Sox would probably have to part with Jacoby Ellsbury, who is expected to play out of his mind in his “walk” year, as well. Ryan Lavarnway would at last provide the Rays with a catcher who can hit, and the Rays could choose between Jerry Sands or Bryce Brentz. They’re scouring annually for bullpen help and the Sox could throw Alfredo Aceves or Mark Melanson into the deal. If the Sox don’t think they’re getting enough in return, they could ask for one of the Rays many minor league pitching prospects. I think there’s a matchup there. All that it takes to pull it off is some imagination and audacity. Your thoughts?
Peter Nichols, South Hamilton

I like your thinking and your matchups are great except for the one where Jacoby Ellsbury goes to Tampa Bay. No way the Rays can afford that. I just never believe these two teams would make a deal. I never see Andrew Friedman anyway near Ben Cherington.
What do you think about the likelihood – and the wisdom – of the Sox acquiring Ike Davis to plug the hole at first base?
Derek, Weare, N.H.

Mets people tell me he’s not available unless they get blown away. Seems like a good fit for Boston. It would have to be part of a huge prospect type deal where the Sox also take on Johan Santana.
Do you feel that the Evil Empire is today where the Red Sox were in 2011, i.e. with aging players, bloated long term salaries, and developing holes in the pitching staff? What is their strategy for the offseason and do you think they can continue to remain atop of the AL East in the next couple years?
Dave, Concord

Bloated salaries with A-Rod for sure. But CC Sabathia isn’t one they regret. Granderson is coming into his last year; Cano is a must to resign long term at big bucks. Teixeira was worth it at the time and he’s still productive. They just shed Soriano and Swisher. Jeter is certainly worth it. So I don’t think they’re in as bad of shape as has been thrown out there. Brian Cashman is a pretty smart, successful GM. He’s going to figure it out. I know they say they want to be under the luxury tax threshold, but that thinking could change in a hurry.
Do you think Mauro Gomez deserves a chance to be the number one first baseman?
Kamran Syed, Tampa, Fla.

An interesting player with a power bat, but I can’t see the Red Sox committing to him unless other things fall through.
Do you think the Red Sox will sign Mike Napoli?
Tommy Sheehan, Watertown

He’s a guy they needed to strike quickly on. Too much of a market is now building up for him including the Yankees. They could still get him, but I’ll bet ‘ya the price has gone up.
I don’t think any of the free agents currently on the market is worth giving up a draft pick for. Lack of talent in our farm system and an over reliance on free agency seems to be why we are in the current situation. I would limit my search to free agents that we do not have to give up a pick for. Would you agree?
T.J. Butcher, Salem, Conn.

Nice way to think but I don’t think it’s realistic. Their first overall pick is protected because they were one of the worst teams. If they are serious about rebuilding this in one year, they’ll have to sacrifice that second overall pick.
Why don’t the Red Sox think big? Pay Hamilton $100 million for four years, trade Doubront and Aceves for Trumbo, add Haren and Lohse with Ellsbury, Pedroia, Hamilton, Trumbo, Ortiz batting one through five and a rotation of Lester, Buchholz, Haren, Lohse, Lackey and they should be a contender.
Alejandro, Nuevo Laredo, Mexico

I think they will think big. They were trying to get Jose Reyes and Josh Johnson. I think Hamilton is definitely in the picture and if he’s out there for an extended period of time, I think they may circle back to him. I get the feeling that Mark Trumbo, who would be ideal for the Red Sox, is going to be an Angel for a long, long time. But I wouldn’t have a problem trading any of the starting pitchers as long as you can replace them in free-agency.
Yikes, isn’t anyone better at first than Napoli or LaRoche?
Ed Herring, Dover-Foxcroft, Maine

Look At LaRoche more closely. He’s had more than one good year and he’s a Gold Glove first baseman. Sorry, at this stage Mauro Gomez is no Mike Napoli or Laroche.
Why are the Sox always trying to fit a square peg into a round hole? You have a Gold Glove, solid hitting first baseman, so you sign Adrian Gonzalez and move your first baseman to third. You have two decent shortstops (Lowery/Scutaro) and you trade them to insert a journeyman outfielder at short. You have a veteran team captain catcher, so you force him to retire and sign a lousy backup that turns team rebel and gets himself shipped out. You hire a manager that tried to do well, but never fit in and had no support. And Carl Crawford? What was that all about? Now you have three catchers, and looking to sign Napoli and maybe Martin? Are we bankrolling catchers? What’s the plan?
Rick, Princeton, N.J.

Kevin Youkilis was declining which is why they made the Adrian Gonzalez deal. Youkilis had played third base his entire career leading up to the pros. The shortstop thing is kind of weird I must admit, and Varitek could easily have stayed on as the backup and the pitchers missed his preparation. At the time the Red Sox thought, OK time to move on with Lavarnway on the verge. I didn’t criticize it at the time so I won’t criticize it now. Crawford was a mistake and they fixed it. Now they have flexibility to trade one of their catchers in a bigger deal.
Pedro Ciriaco demonstrated last summer that he can be a regular in the infield…He can hit/run/field…Why is it that no one seems to consider him for shorstop and why is it that Iglasias (good field/no hit) is everyone’s choice?
John Oles, Hermon, Maine

I think he’s got to be in the equation. He’s a spark plug, a Yankee killer. He’s a good player. He’s not anything more than average at any of the infield position and that’s where he hurts himself. But he doesn’t kill you either. His best position is second base, but he’s not playing there.
With the Sox coming off a 93-loss season, should ANY of their prospects be considered untouchable?
Dave,Toronto, Canada

I personally don’t think so, but they think Boegarts and Bradley could be All-Star players, so they’ll do everything they can to protect them.
Worse signing… Bobby V. to the Sox or Tim Tebow to the NY Jets?
George Samuelson, Bethlehem, Pa.

Interesting comparison — Bobby V and Tebow. Haven’t had time to chew on this one.